Health boards urged not to cut nurse wage bills

RCN Scotland is urging the NHS to consider all the options in an Audit Scotland report, not just cutting wage bills, to tackle financial challenges.

The report ‘Improving Public Sector Efficiency' sets out a range of options for health boards to consider.

Theresa Fyffe, director of RCN Scotland, said: ‘Health boards and other healthcare providers must involve nurses and other frontline staff in any such plans to redesign services and they must demonstrate how any proposed changes to staffing levels will deliver safe and high quality patient services.

‘Without the clinical expertise of frontline staff, decisions could be made that will have serious consequences for patient care in the future.

‘Health boards must not think that they can take the easy option to reduce costs by simply cutting staff or by replacing registered nurses with healthcare and nursing assistants.

‘While the role of healthcare assistants is extremely important in supporting safe and effective healthcare, a straightforward replacement of registered nurses with healthcare assistants would put patient safety at risk.'

The report says: ‘Without examining options, such as more flexible deployment of staff and reduced staffing levels, rationalising the assets used and seeking alternative ways of delivering services, public bodies may not be able to reduce their costs while maintaining the levels and quality of front-line services. To meet the challenges presented by the current economic climate a more fundamental approach is needed.'

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